December 2005

Playing nice | Workplace

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Playing nice

by Karen L. Cates, Ph.D.
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The term "playing nice" no longer applies only to the kindergarten playground. Leaders know it also motivates employees to increase performance willingly. Touted by experts for centuries, researchers are lending credence to the value of being nice and explaining why it works.

Across the ages

In his book The Prince, 16th-century author and politician Niccolò Machiavelli expounds on what a leader must do to be esteemed. To demonstrate a love for talent, a leader must encourage and honor those beneath his position. To boost productivity, a leader must provide assurance of reward. And to maintain goodwill, a leader must "occupy" his people with celebrations and other festivities. Yes, Machiavelli suggests good leaders should practice being nice.

Fast forward 500 years to Jim Goodnight, president of SAS Institute Inc., Cary, N.C., who understands exactly what Machiavelli was saying. As the majority owner of the largest privately owned software company in the U.S., Goodnight is renowned for his...

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